Professional Chef Sam Talbot Opens Up About Diabetes, Cooking and His New Initiative

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By : Suvarna Sheth

Professional Chef, Sam Talbot, is always on the go. He may start the day in one city, and end it in another.

He lives a fast pace-life: getting new restaurants off their feet, authoring new recipes, working on his foundation, Beyond Type 1 with his fellow-cofounders, and managing his Type 1 diabetes.

In his latest initiative, he’s partnered up with Medtronic, one of the largest makers of continuous glucose monitors, to work on something near and dear to his heart, advocacy for those with diabetes.

Talbot is involved in Medtronic’s “Live More, Worry Less” campaign to help spread the message out about the medical device-makers’ technology. The campaign looks at the various solutions available and offers real stories from people using the technology.

“What matters the most to me is being an advocate for something and being passionate about what I’m saying,” Talbot tells dLife in an exclusive interview. “What I’m talking about– living with Type 1, or Type 2, how important it is to manage your blood glucose numbers, how important it is to eat healthily and to exercise — that’s where I have the most passion.”

Talbot is dedicated to helping those who need it because he knows diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can be a very daunting cloud. “You know the grass is greener on the other side, you just got to get to it,” he says.

Having been diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of 12, he only recently started using a continuous glucose monitor.

“For me, having lived so long with diabetes, being diagnosed at 12, to now, at the age of 41, it’s a really exciting time to see how far the technology has advanced,” Talbot says. “Not only is Medtronic’s campaign a great program to spread the word but just on a human level, I think we’re all trying to get to that concept of living more and worrying less.”

Talbot uses the Guardian Connect System and uses insulin injections using an insulin pen.

“When I’m on the go, running from state to state, cooking, checking recipes or flight times, whatever it may be, I wear a sensor that adheres to the back of my arm. From there, I calibrate my sugars to the device, and from that moment I’m getting blood glucose readings,” he says. “What I really love about it, is that it pairs with the Sugar IQ app, so not only am I getting up to date glucose levels from my CGM but then I’m starting to get predictions from the app.”

He explains that the “predictions” are like having a little buddy on your phone, basically saying ‘hey Sam, I can predict that your blood sugar is trending up-words or downwards.’

And, Talbot says the predictions take the worry out of the day for him.

“I no longer have to worry if my blood sugars are going up or if my blood sugars are going down in the middle of my activity,” he explains. “It’s a really unique system, and the technology behind it, the advances are there.”

The best part about it, Talbot explains is it’s all on your cell phone. “So if I’m checking a recipe, if I’m checking a flight time, if I’m reading a text message, just one more swipe, and I’m able to get up-to-the-moment blood glucose level. I’ve never up-to-the-minute, state of the arc-technology like that.”

How Do You Push the Boundaries with Type 1?

For Talbot, pushing the boundaries living with Type 1 means a few things:

“First, it’s taking advantage of the technology that’s available, for me, using the Guardian Connect System aides me in my glucose management,” he says. “If my blood glucose isn’t being managed, how am I going to manage anything else?”

Another way the author and chef challenges himself is by being careful what he ingests in his body.

He says a lot of people in general, probably need to look at their cupboards and do a pantry swap for a lot of the toxins they don’t realize are in their home.

“White sugar is a toxin, white flour is another example,” Talbot says. “There are just a lot of things we don’t need in our household, and if you do a pantry swap to switch out the refined, processed, sugar products, that’s pushing the limits right there because you’re seeking out, doing the research, trying to find the healthiest option for your family.”

Talbot says this doesn’t mean you can’t still eat and enjoy the foods that you know and love, it just means finding a way to make them more wholesome.

For example, he says if normally you bake a cake with white flour, you know there’s an alternative to that: You don’t have to use white flour. He says something as simple as fried chicken can be done in a more healthy way.

A Unique Combination

Talbot stands out from the pack, being a professional chef, and having diabetes truly gives him a unique perspective.

He was born with a love for food and he recalls his mother cooking at home and going to local farmer’s markets with his grandmother. “Some kids are attached to their basketball or skateboard, and for me, I was attached to being in the kitchen,” he says.

When Talbot was 8, he was already playing with different food combinations, and by the time he was 14-15, he was already working in restaurants.

“The relationship, the love of food I had when I was diagnosed completely changed,” he says, “I realized the foods I put in my body affected my blood glucose and I knew that everything I put in my body counted.”

Being diagnosed at a young age gave him a lot of responsibilities and really opened up his eyes. And it’s not to say he never rebelled, he admits.

“There was a time I didn’t want to check my blood glucose, I wanted to be ‘normal’ and eat pizza, or whatever the situation was, like everyone else, there were those awkward moments, but that’s just a part of life with diabetes,” he acknowledges.

“As long as you’re progressing, learning, growing and pushing those boundaries, that’s all you can do,” he says.

Since that time, Talbot has certainly pushed the boundaries, having been the only chef with diabetes to compete on Bravo’s Top Chef several years ago, publishing two cookbooks, The Sweet Life, Diabetes Without Boundaries, which is geared for  anyone that’s looking for healthy lifestyle swaps, and 100% Real, which focuses on clean and fresh eating.

“Diet has a strange connotation, says Talbot, “but if your focus is a healthy lifestyle, you want to look great, you want to feel great, and start to push the boundaries of where food can take you, those books are for you,” he adds.

How Do You Start Your Day?

Professional chef and author, Sam Talbot.

Talbot is a huge fan of smoothies and usually starts his day with a vibrant green smoothie.

“I love my blender, I put a lot of greens into it, fresh mango, dairy-free milk, a little bit of probiotic,” he says. “It’s just thinking outside of the box. Instead of ‘I’m hungry, I’m going to grab a box of some processed food,’ it’s really just taking that extra 3 ½ minutes to go into your refrigerator and drop some high-fiber, high-protein products into the blender.”

You might dislike mango but like a banana. Kale might make you nauseous, but you might like spinach. The key, he says is to find what you like.

As a person with Type 1 and a person that’s always on the go, there are three things Talbot likes to start his day with: his glucose management, a fresh smoothie, and meditation.

“I wish I could tell you want the next moment brings because I’m always moving, I’m never in the same city long and so it’s really about how I start the day,” Talbot says. “It can get tricky in between, but those are three things I stick true to, and I’m pretty cool for whatever life throws at me.”

Talbots’ goal is to continue to make a lot of noise in the field of advocacy, and for people with diabetes to truly worry less and live more, “which is what I think we’re all trying to do, not only as diabetics but as human beings,” he says.

You can learn more about the Guardian Connect System and all of Medtronic’s offerings on their website.